Nine-year-old Martha Payne's favorite school lunch: chicken curry, broccoli and ice cream.
Nine-year-old Martha Payne's favorite school lunch: chicken curry, broccoli and ice cream. Martha Payne/NeverSeconds.com
Scottish school girl Martha Payne is just nine, but she caused a national kerfluffle last week when she was told she could no longer publish photographs of her school lunches on her daily food blog, NeverSeconds.
Martha began blogging in April about the quality of her school lunches, with the help of her father, David. Each day she posts a clear photograph of a meal, and rates each one on its taste, health, price and number of pieces of hair that turn up in the food (mostly none).
She also started accepting photos from other kids who've taken snapshots of their school lunches. Martha won the support of chef and food activist Jamie Oliver and, to her delight, of fans who contributed increasing amounts of money to her food charity, Mary's Meals. The group sets up feeding projects for children in developing countries.
However, her occasionally unflattering descriptions of her own meals didn't please the local Scottish governing council. Last week, officials told Martha she couldn't publish images of school lunches anymore. That's because a newspaper article described Martha's efforts under a headline that read, "TIme To Fire The Dinner Ladies", according to the BBC. The council objected, saying school lunch workers were now afraid for their jobs and that Martha was only photographing one lunch item out of several offerings.
The camera ban lasted less than a day.
The local council faced a "storm of protest on the internet", says the BBC. Council chief Roddy McCuish quickly released a statement lifting the ban, praising Martha as an 'enterprising and imaginative pupil' and insisting that censorship had no place in the council.
The brief censorship had a remarkable effect. Millions of people visited Martha's food blog to voice support for her and then chose to donate to her hunger charity. Martha's now helped raise more than $146,000, enough to build a full kitchen at an elementary school in Blantyre, Malawi, according to the Guardian. There's enough money to feed the school's nearly 2,000 pupils for a year.
Martha writes: "Mary's Meals asked me what I would like to call the kitchen and I said 'Friends of NeverSeconds' because if it was just me I would never have managed to raise enough but now we have!"